Are Educational TV Shows Effective Teachers?

Are Educational TV Shows Effective Teachers?

An analysis of the important role the media plays in our child's education.
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It seems like the perfect innovation: a device that provides entertaining, interactive education to your child 24/7 free of cost (with the exception of the monthly cable bill, of course), allowing you to safely plant them in front of the screen while you work or savor your free time. Since it's conception, the television has consistently been one of the most constantly-evolving pieces of technology; it started with the intent to spread news and entertainment to the masses and served little purpose beyond that, and was primarily intended for adults. This changed during the late-1940's with the creation of shows such as Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Howdy Doody, and Captain Kangaroowhich served the purpose of entertaining children rather than adults.

While TV was often regarded as mindless entertainment, this would change as a new dimension of children's media emerged in 1969; with the creation of the instant hit Sesame Street came a flood of innovative new shows for children that not only sought to entertain, but also to educate. While productive in theory, many parents debate whether or not this "hands-free" approach to learning is actually helping their children to grasp preschool concepts, or if it's simply a toned-down form of child neglect. Does educational television actually help children learn, or is it too good to be true?

The first benefit of educational television comes in the form of accessibility. A child coming from a financially-strained family may not be able to attend preschool (an issue I've previously tackled), but can easily turn on the TV to have access to similar knowledge they'd be expected to learn in preschool. The basic comprehension of numbers and letters, for example, is a fundamental part of childhood development, and though it's ideal for a physical entity, such as a teacher or parent, to teach these to a child, a parent may not have the funds to send their child to preschool, and may spend a majority of the day working. This is, of course, where educational programming has an advantage; it's accessible and reliant, providing an otherwise uneducated child with the information they'll need in a fun and interactive way.

Another major benefit deals with how vast and widespread television is. While this may seem like a drawback to many, as an overly-generalized approach can ostracize minorities, many educational TV shows have actually done the contrary. Naturally, education on certain topics differs between locations; a preschooler from San Francisco is going to lear about different societal issues and norms than a preschooler from small-town Georgia. My own mother, for example, grew up in a small village in Illinois during the 1970's, just a few decades after the ban (yes, ban) on blacks in the county was lifted. Naturally, the first time she was exposed to non-white individuals was through the media-- specifically, Sesame Street, which was famously known for being one of the first children's shows to feature a racially-diverse cast. This came as such a culture shock to the American population that Mississippi actually attempted to ban Sesame Street from airing in the state, fearing that it would confuse children seeing a fully-integrated cast. Racial diversity isn't the only area where Sesame Street has proven to be a positive source of societal progression-- also featured in the show was a segment about breastfeeding, a cast member with Down Syndrome, a muppet whose father is incarcerated, a song empowering natural hair, and even an episode that tackled the sensitive topic of death. For many children, this would be their only means of learning about such topics, as most preschools shy away from them. Introducing these topics also gives parents a great opportunity to discuss them with their child, giving the topics a preface and reason to be discussed. For minority children in less diverse settings, this can provide a sense of inclusion and representation; A young Mexican-American girl may consider the curious and corageous Dora the Explorer to be a role model, for example-- I personaly find Julia, the first-ever muppet with autism, to be a great example of representation for myself. Though reading, writing, and math are integral parts of education, it's imperative that children learn about the world around them and the people within it.

Though it's clear that TV offers an accessable education with different perspectives than a preschool classroom, what are the shortcomings of educational TV? Well, the main issue with it is that many parents rely on it to be their child's sole educator, which professionals strongly discourage; unlike a teacher, who can stop, repeat, and answer questions, the TV can only go forward,at a pace that may not be ideal for certain children. The child cannot ask questions on puzzling topics, which can lead them to either not grasp-- or worse-- misunderstand a lesson. Schools also provide social interaction, teaching children how to communicate and cooperate with other children and adults, which is something the TV can't provide; Schools give children a strict schedule they must adhere and adapt to, and teaches proper behavior and management skills. The child cannot learn from experiences from the TV like they can at a preschool, where many lessons and ideas are coneyed through the senses; all they can do is watch. Another major issue boils down to the unhealthy nature of watching TV; when a child learns in a school environment, play and physical activity are encouraged, while excessive TV watching can cause a child to become lethargic.

So, now that we know the pros and cons of educational TV, what can we take from this? Well, like most things, educational programming is good... In moderation; to properly learn, children need the aid of an adult who can discuss and explain concepts to them. In reality, educational TV is most effective when used as a supplement, rather than the primary source, of education. It's important that parents and teachers, rather than the media, lead the education of children. So, no, there's nothing wrong with your child watching TV, but it is important that you know what your child is watching, and provide further information on what they're being taught. As previously mentioned, these shows can spark a conversation between you and your child, and can give you the opportunity to teach them with a hands-on approach. This approach is supported by the creators of Sesame Street, who decided to air their episode about death on Thanksgiving, when children would be around many adults to help support their understanding.

In the end, it's important that we realize the importance of discussing things with our children, and guiding them through the world of education by hand, rather than by screen.

Cover Image Credit: http://extras.mnginteractive.com

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Not My Michigan

A Michigan student-athlete turned Registered Nurse on the Michigan Medicine contract negotiations in 2018.

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It's May 1st, 2016. I'm bright-eyed, eager, and graduating from the University of Michigan as a Nursing Student and Student-Athlete.

I am ready to take on the world the way that Michigan taught me how: fearlessly, compassionately, and wholeheartedly. I bleed blue. I know what it means to be a Wolverine and to represent the Michigan Difference in everything I do. I wear the block M on my School of Nursing scrubs and my Michigan Dance Team uniform well aware that it represents goodness, tradition, and excellence. I am determined. I am inspired. I am ready.

It's Monday, September 17th, 2018. What does Michigan mean to me now? I used to be so sure. Now, I simply don't know. So, what's the deal? How did my view on an institution become so indifferent in recent months?

I chose U of M to start my nursing career because it had the widely known reputation of putting its patients first, respecting its nurses, and providing the best care to patients in the state (5th in the country, to be exact). In my first year, as I was clumsily learning how to push patient stretchers, titrate intravenous vasopressors, and to communicate with the medical team, I proudly participated in our hospital's effort to achieve Magnet status.

When Nursing earned Magnet Status, an award given by the American Nurses' Credentialing Center and indicator of the strength and quality of Nursing at Michigan, I felt that same pride as I did in May of 2016.

I knew in my heart that I picked the best institution to develop my nursing practice and to give high quality, patient-centered care to anyone who walked, rolled, or was carried through the doors of Adult Emergency Services. The hospital's goals were aligned with mine and those around me. We put patients first, and more specifically, we put patients over profits.

I am lucky enough to work at a hospital that has been unionized for more than four decades. When I started working, the concept of a union was foreign to me. For those who may need a refresher, unions promote and protect the interests of all employees. They collectively bargain with employers to secure written agreements for employees regarding pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Collective bargaining agreements are legally enforceable contracts holding employers and employees to mutually agreed-to workplace rules and process to provide a fair and just workplace. The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, has been working diligently since January to bargain with the University of Michigan to protect me, the 5,700 nurses who work within the institution, and our patients. I'd like to think they're the good guys in this story.

Here's where things get sticky: David Spahlinger, president of our prestigious U of M health system, has publicly stated that Michigan is "committed to maintaining current staffing levels," but will not make this commitment in writing. Common sense is reflected in the most high-quality research on the topic of nurse-patient ratios and its direct effect on patient care.

Appropriate staffing allows me and my coworkers to give the quality of care that I know we have the ability to provide. High staffing levels are associated with reduced mortality, falls, medication errors, ulcers, restraint use and infections. Unregulated staffing is a significant barrier to nurses' abilities to provide optimal patient care and prevents Nursing at Michigan from providing what we know to be the Michigan Difference in healthcare.

UMPNC held voting on a work stoppage for unfair labor practices last week. Out of 4,000 votes cast by nurses at the U, 94% authorized a work stoppage in protest of the University's unfair labor practices. No date is set, but our elected nurse bargaining team now has the authority to call for action.

Thank you to Katie Oppenheim, who chairs our union, for reiterating in an article to the Detroit Free Press that a work stoppage is not our goal. "Our goal is a fair agreement which respects nurses and guarantees safe staffing. The university can remedy this situation immediately by stopping their unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith."

I am proud to be a nurse and I hope that our efforts to keep Michigan a patients-over-profits institution are recognized at the community, state, and national level. Anne McGinity, David Spahlinger, and those who have the power to make Michigan the magical place I once thought it was, make like Nike and just do it. For the love of patients, nurses, and our great University. I know we are better than this.

(Stay Tuned, folks).

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To incoming college freshman

Things I wish someone would have told me about freshman year of college

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Freshman year, I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, it kinda was. The excitement and anticipation of finally being away from home and the feeling of a fresh start. I was beyond excited for freshman year and can honestly say it was the best year of my life. However, there are a few things I wish I would have known before starting college.

This first thing I wish I would have realized is how fast the year goes by. I felt like my senior year of high school went by fast, but nothing compared to freshman year. It's like I blinked and it was already winter break, then I blinked again and it was summer. I think this is because there is so much to do at school, between class, extracurriculars, meeting all new people, and exploring a new place. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming, the feeling as if you should always be doing something. It is important not to forget to relax and take time for yourself. The amount of work and time in which it is due is also a lot different than high school as well, which can be a stressful adjustment as time management plays such a big role in being successful in college. A good way to avoid this stress is to plan out when you will do your work for each of your classes and don't procrastinate (we all do it, but if you can break the habit your freshman-year-old college, you will thank yourself at the end of the year). One thing I wish I would have done was taken more time for myself and not have had the constant feeling like I had to be doing something. So take in all the new experiences, but also don't be afraid to take time for yourself because although freshman year doesn't last forever, you will still have three more years.

That leads me to my next point - which is to get involved. This was a such a big factor in how I made friends my freshman year. College offers so many unique opportunities and it is such a good way to find your passions and people that share those passions. One thing I wish someone would have told me was that there are certain clubs for your major. I am a film major and I joined Delta Kappa Alpha, which is a film fraternity and being a part of this organization has helped me meet some of the greatest people and even better I have made friends who have the same major as me. Making friends in the dorms was one thing I regret not doing my freshman year. So many people talk about how they met their closest friends through their dorms, so don't miss the opportunity of meeting people that are living with you for a year like I did.

Overall freshman year is pretty great. A new beginning. Don't forget about your past though. Keep in touch with your high school friends, answer your mom when she calls you, and text your siblings saying you miss them even if you really don't! Have fun and enjoy because it is most likely going to be the easiest year of school.

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